The first morning of Prototype Dev Camp is a slow morning. The students stumble in after an end-of-the-week queens-night and queens-day beer saturated party experience. The stench of male-demarcation on the building is slightly present, but this won't bother the youngsters. They are ready and wait in suspense to kick of the 5 day workshop!
Willems Velthoven opens the morning giving a super fast contextualizing talk; the plan is to develop some concepts and hopefully develop these into a full working social networking RFID based art-work or game for the Sur Place exhibition that opens on Saturday 8th of May at Mediamatic.
Deborah follows up Willems talk and introduces some past projects developed in similar workshops. The concept of Prototype Dev Camp is not new, but is loosely modeled after the three hacker camps that took place in the summers during Picnic ('07-'09). In these camps, a group of experienced, older hacker-geeks worked for 5 days without sleep and with a lot of Nespresso on the development of complex RFID based (art)works, that should help the networking between the horde of people that visit the Picnic festival (at the Westergas terrain in Amsterdam West). A couple of the veteran hackers, Arjan Scherpenisse, Erik Borra, Ubi de Feo and Machiel Veltkamp have taken the task of 'trainer' upon them in Prototype Dev Camp to help the group of younger (<23 years) hacker/geek students to develop their work.
After the general introductions to the week, the veteran hackers introduce themselves one by one and explain their personal hacking strengths. Arjan developed the API of the anyMeta database and is software developer at Mediamatic, whereas Machiel is the atelier coordinator. He is in charge of the distributions of the hardware and other materials within Mediamatic. Ubi is an interaction designer who works with hardware and Arduino. He will help with the electronic issues. Erik Borra is an external who normally works as lead developer at the PhD research department of media studies at the UvA. He has Arduino skills too.
The students also have to introduce themselves. After a quick round of very basic introductions it is clear that we have a very serious group of participants. Over half of the students have experience with different forms of coding and hacking and most of them study artificial intelligence or engineering.
The first point on the agenda is the explanation of the different RFID tags, to get a bit more familiar with the technology the students will be working with. Arjan explains that there are low, high and ultra high frequency RFID tags. The ultra high frequency tags are rare and still very expensive, whereas the high frequency tags are most used very cheap tags. They can be read very simply, by putting them close to a receiver (by holding them close to a RFID reader). These tags are similar to the ones the GVB uses for their OV-Chipcard. At the workshop the students will use the Mediamatics ikTags, that are equipped with a 1K high frequency Mifare RFID tag. The ikTags all have their own identification number, that is connected to a profile within the anyMeta database (where the actual information is stored). Mediamatic uses the internet so it does not need to write anything to the card.
Arjan moves on by describing what kind of API's the anyMeta database uses and what they can be used for. The API's are working over HTTP and can therefore be connected to in any language. Two implementations have however already been written (Python and Java). The students would do good by choosing between these two.
Next on the agenda is Erik, who gives a bit of information on the previous experiences within Mediamatic Hacker Camps. He mentions projects like the FriendSlicer and the Ik-A-Sketch that were successes, but also mentions a couple of projects that did not work so well. Often problems in these more or less failed projects were caused by putting to much attention to the programing of the technology and to little attention to (game) design. Erik stresses that in the history of these Hacker Camps, it proved to be most fruitful to work within multidisciplinary teams consisting of a programmer, a designer and someone who knows about hardware.
Erik is followed by Ubi, who gives the students a primer introduction to Arduino. He teaches the students about the functionalities of different kinds of Arduino and introduces them to a very simple program primer (how to turn a LED on and of via Arduino). During his tutorial, Ubi shows a surprisingly big concern for bunnies and stresses several times not to kill the cute and harmless animals.
After the basic introduction by the trainers, the students are put together to brainstorm and come up with a couple of possible projects. Then the students are dismissed for the day.